An Experiment With My Health

One of the realities of every diet and fitness regimen is that your body adapts to the activity you’re performing. In fact, that’s why exercise (and diets) work. The problem is that once your body has adapted to the program you’re on, your return on energy invested starts to drop. In order to keep making progress, you need to change your program frequently.

I’ve been pretty good about switching up my workout patterns. I vary the exercises, weights, reps and sets ranging from high-rep sets of clean & press to bench press with just under my body weight. I’m pretty happy with the consistent results I’ve managed to achieve in terms of building muscle mass and toning.

What I haven’t really paid much attention to for over a year now is my diet. I have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and, last summer, my doctor told me I need to be more aware of that fact. I immediately made some drastic changes to my diet, eliminating eggs and reducing both dairy and red meat. Against my doctor’s expectations, I was able to get my cholesterol into the healthy range within 3 months. In view of that success, I figured I should just keep doing what I was doing.

Recently, however, I made another, fairly drastic change when I decided to take an indefinite break from alcohol. One of the side-effects I was expecting was at least a small drop in weight due to the reduction in daily calories (I had been drinking virtually every day). Instead, I gained about a kilogram.

Gaining weight didn’t make intuitive sense to me, so I started doing some research. The best I could come up with was that the extra weight was water. Some people’s bodies become partially dependent on the diuretic effects of alcohol and I guessed that could be what happened to me. I kept poking around for some healthy techniques to get rid of excess body water and stumbled onto an article about low-carb diets. One of the reasons low-carb diets like the Atkins tend to develop into crazes is that they boast very rapid up-front weight loss. Studies have suggested that the majority of the weight lost in the early days of these diets is water (which is one of the reasons it comes back so quickly).

I did try a low-carb diet back in my early twenties (The Zone), but it didn’t do much for me. At the time I was around 7% body fat and had been a personal fitness trainer for a little over a year. I estimate I’m at about 14% body fat right now and, though I’m stronger now, my overall fitness level just isn’t the same as it was when I was 20.

I decided to give it another try. Starting today, I’ll be eliminating as many carbs from my diet as I possibly can. I’ve made a list of low-carb vegetables (leafy greens seem to be the best) as well as some of the better options for fruit if I’m desperate for something sweet (raspberries & blackberries are recommended). It’s going to be a tricky balance between keeping my cholesterol intake low while still trying to make up the bulk of my calories from protein and fat. My plan at the moment is to follow this strictly for 2 weeks and then re-evaluate. I’ll keep ya posted.

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